During the Covid-19 pandemic, outpatient visits in California fell by more than 50%, with one of the population’s declines being particularly pronounced-children, according to reports To new report.
The report was published by Manifest MedEx, California’s largest non-profit health information network, and is based on an analysis of 4 million state residents under continuous coverage by the same insurance company in 2020.
Although the number of outpatient visits in late March last year fell to a low 50% lower than the pre-pandemic level, the visit volume eventually stabilized and then rebounded to about 20% lower than the 2019 level by June.
However, compared with adults, the number of outpatient visits for adolescents and children has dropped even more. Visits by teenagers dropped by 25%, while visits by children over 5 years old dropped by 36%.
The reason for the decline may be that adolescents and children have fewer respiratory infections and require fewer medical visits for school and sports, but this decline is worrying.
“What is worrying is that children have less and less contact with pediatricians and teachers. They all play a key role in identifying medical, developmental and social problems. We will monitor children’s health utilization in the coming months. Important,” Claudia Williams, CEO of Manifest MedEx, said in an email.
Williams said another particularly worrying trend is the decline in the number of preventive services, such as cancer screening, which fell by 20% to 40% in California during the pandemic. This includes a reduction in mammography, which is 20% lower than pre-pandemic levels; colonoscopy, which is a 34% reduction; and cervical cancer screening, which is a 41% reduction.
“Lack of preventive care, such as cancer screening, can have negative lasting effects, including diagnosis at a later stage,” Williams said.
She added: “It is very important to catch up with these screening services quickly in the next few years and monitor whether the cancer is diagnosed at a later stage.”
In contrast, compared with 2019, the number of patients for other services such as hip replacement and positron emission tomography dropped by only 3% and 2%, respectively.
With the passing of 2020, the number of visits has picked up, but has not returned to the pre-pandemic level. From October to December, even if the number of Covid-19 cases soared from approximately 225,000 to 2 million, the monthly outpatient visit volume still hovered at around 250,000. The report points out that this shows that medical offices and Californians have become accustomed to coexisting with this deadly disease and taking necessary preventive measures.
Williams said that as the number of visits continues to rise, providers will need to catch up with missed care and identify and proactively reach those patients who need help the most, such as high-risk patients and patients who have experienced care gaps.
She said providers can do this by focusing campaigns on increasing preventive cancer screenings and ensuring that every child and adolescent has a health visit where referrals to needed services can be provided.
Photo: Geber86, Getty Images